My sister used to make fun of me because I didn’t do the Facebook thing.
It took me a long time to even go through the machinations of setting up an account—and I can’t recall the reasons I finally did it—and then once I did, I rarely used it. My sister said that made me a “creeper”—someone who furtively hangs out on the periphery of Facebook occasionally making their presence known. Kind of like a social media Peeping Tom, I suppose.
I labored under the false pretense that things such as Facebook were for teenage girls and, besides, I reasoned, why would I want to post a picture of the corn beef rueben I was having for lunch? Well, as many of you know by now, Facebook isn’t really for teenage girls—certainly not anymore. In fact, it’s the one form of social media that adults, even grandparents, have embraced. Which is probably the main reason many teens avoid it like the plague these days. Oh, sure, they might have an account, but they treat it like a time-share condo—visiting only a couple times a year. Occasionally, they may post a picture from a vacation (Look! A palm tree!) or of a recent purchase such as a new pair of shoes or a new Land Rover. But they prefer to stay below the radar just in case their parents tag them on some video of a hamster playing the saxophone or a dumb (in their mind) meme featuring cute cats and a bad pun.
But what has happened is that Facebook has grown into an important marketing tool for businesses, nonprofits, civic groups, churches and, yes, political campaigns. So, as a journalist, I was compelled to dive deeper into the Facebook pool, not only on my own page but on the page of whatever news agency for which I was employed.
Today, most newspapers have corresponding websites. But if it wasn’t for Facebook and other social media, many readers might not know those websites exist. What we journalist types do is link our website stories to our Facebook page, where people are more likely to see it. The reader clicks on it and—poof!—they are whisked away from Facebook to the website where they can (in theory) read the entire story. And that counts as a “unique visit” to the website; something salespeople can tell a potential advertiser about in order to get them to place an ad on the website (“We had 10,000 unique visits to our website last week alone!” they might say.)
And while this technique certainly works, it is also the proverbial double-edged sword. Because, as you know, on Facebook people can “like” things and write comments below the posting.
While posting on Facebook does help us pile up those unique visits that advertisers love, it also allows us to know what’s on people’s minds and sometimes that ain’t pretty. Probably the most frustrating thing for us editors here at Halston Media, parent company of Mahopac News, is that readers will see a posting on Facebook for one of our articles and then make a comment or ask a question that clearly indicates they never read the full article because if they had, their question would have been answered.
For example (and this is fictional), they might see a headline on Facebook that reads, “New $3 million park renovation approved,” and then comment under it, “How are we gonna pay for that? Taxpayer screwed again!”
That might leave us scratching our heads because if they had actually read the article instead of just the headline, they would likely have found out exactly how the project was being paid for and that it wouldn’t affect the tax rate. I call these people the “Knee Jerks.”
Sometimes, they will read the article and still come away with a misunderstanding of what they’ve read. Or maybe they understood it, but somehow it triggered their passion for an issue completely unrelated, diverting them off on a tangent. For example—and this time, a real-life one—we recently posted a story about the town’s plans to purchase two parcels of land (maybe more) in the Mahopac business district, one for a park and one for municipal parking. It prompted A LOT of comments, most of them supportive and positive. But there were plenty of the requisite: “Just what we need—another park. What this town needs is a Trader Joe’s… or a Costco… or a Target… or a fancy restaurant…”
Whenever we write a story about a town’s plans to build something or a town’s approval for a developer to build something, we inevitably get many responses like that. What these folks fail to understand is that the town has no control over what stores will or won’t come here. If Trader Joe’s corporate management doesn’t want to come to Mahopac, they are not coming. Oh, sure—it’s possible that the town could dangle a carrot in front of them in the form of tax breaks and the like, but Carmel/Mahopac is trying to broaden its commercial tax base, so that would be kind of counterproductive.
Getting back to the story on the proposed park project in the business district, there were those who made several postings that were uninformed and just plain weird. Now, as an administrator of the Mahopac News Facebook page, I try my best not to get too involved with the squirrelly comment brigade. We don’t censor comments unless they are racist, libelous or foul language is involved. But I have to practically tie myself to the chair to keep out of the fray. With the discussion on the park plan, I failed miserably and dove in head first, feebly attempting to educate and entertain.
Somebody wrote, “It seems Mahopac News is getting a little snarky here.”
I found that a bit ironic since I was simply trying to de-snark the entire thread, but it was difficult because, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I wear my sarcasm on my sleeve. So, I vowed to henceforth keep my snark to myself and stay on the sidelines and just make sure people behave on our Facebook page. They can be wrong and misinformed all they want; they just can’t use foul or derogatory language.
So, now I can go back to using Facebook for what it was truly meant for: sharing recipes and making fun of Donald Trump.
Oh, if my sister could see me now!